Tuesday, October 09, 2007

kiwi emerging church

logo on Tshirt.jpg

I’m flying up to Auckland (80 minute flight) and back tomorrow, to speak on Kiwi emerging church at St John’s the residential Theological College of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

When I was training for ministry, I did some papers on Christology and Galatians in the Greek and Theological method and Mission history in New Zealand at St Johns. Never, ever, in my wildest dreams, did I ever imagine I would be back guest lecturing. I’m a Baptist, for goodness sake. And yet in the strange twists and turns of life and denominational streams, I am invited to speak on the emerging church in New Zealand as part of a class on evangelism and mission.

I’m taking one of my Christchurch students with me, Spanky Moore, who is planting the Kitchen. It is an Anglican expression of emerging church, so I suspect his emerging Anglican story should fit quite subversively into my audience of Anglican ordinands.

Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

Monday, October 08, 2007

stoning the prophets: the pics

Stoning the prophets is into it’s third week. The concept is simple: I am preaching through the minor prophets on Sunday morning, so we have set aside a time on Sunday to simply read the prophet aloud. So Sunday was Amos, from chapter 1 verse 1 to chapter 9:15.

We have created a dedicated space in the church. It is in an upstairs room (in the Friendship Centre):


In the centre of the room we’ve placed a whole pile of stones. When we’ve finished hearing the prophet, everyone picks up a stone, reflecting on what struck us from the passage, and then tossing the stone back into the pile. There is also a scroll plus the old church Bible, open at the prophet and flanked by two Stones jars:


Around the room we’ve used black shade cloth on the walls and white shade cloth to lower the ceiling. Tussock grasses enhance the environment, with chairs placed well back to increase the sense of being in community around the central Scriptures. And various stations, unique to each prophet, which also means the space is being added to week by week.


Another 18 people were present on Sunday, and it is very special to be engaging the Scriptures in this way. Roll on Obadiah this Sunday.

Posted by steve at 10:29 PM

Saturday, October 06, 2007

future of denominational organs

I write (and am paid to write) a monthly film review of a denominational (Methodist) magazine (which I then have permission to reproduce on this blog 2 weeks after the magazine has gone to print). Personally, it is hard work, another demand in a busy life. But it’s worth it because it forces me to keep recording and developing my thoughts about film. It’s also pretty hard to go past free double pass tickets to the movies.

Anyhow, the magazine arrived today and the following letter to the editor caught my eye:

I wonder whether the Methodist Church needs a thorough reworking of a theology of communication and mission in the 21st century. I suspect the end of such a process might result in something that looks like this:
– investing in a contemporary, interactive website;
– paying Paul Titus [editor] to blog rather than write articles for print media, paying Steve Taylor [hey that was me] to blog about movies and contemporary culture, pay someone else to blog about spirituality etc, etc;
– using email to point to developments and points of interest on the website;
– if we must use trees perhaps a smaller, twice annual print broadsheet/flyer which would highlight where interesting debates are happening, some stories, more information on the web. …

I know, I can hear it now – ‘Not everyone is on the web.’ Yes, that is plainly true but it is also true that communication has come along way since the printing press, and any missional church (or contemporary business for that matter) ignores the Internet at its peril.

The people a missional church is endeavouring to connect with are certainly web and text savvy. Come on, it’s time to move on, or fade away. The choice is yours. Rosemary Neave

Now, besides the fact that I would love to be paid to blog about culture and will gladly consider job offers, what do people think of the letter and the issues raised? What changes have people seen to denominational and church communication in the last few years? What changes to denominational and local church communication do we want to see?

Posted by steve at 09:27 AM

Friday, October 05, 2007

what are Calvinists doing with Jesus?

Is the Incarnation of Jesus about God or about humanity?

I was reading some blogs last nite extolling Calvinism and how it encouraged a God-cented theology rather than a human-centred theology. Which sounds sweet. But as one of my Calvinist friends tells me (Don the Carson): damn all false antithesis to hell. So I began to wonder if God-centered theology and human-centred theology might actually be an antithesis.

I woke up this morning thinking about Jesus, who is the revelation of God. Yet this Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. If you make him out as God-centred, you run the risk of downplaying his fully humanity, for he is the new Adam. Equally, if you make him out as human-centred, you run the risk of downplaying his full divinity, for he is Lord.

So is it that in Jesus are integrated all the riches of the universe, including both a God-centred and a human-centred theology?

Just wondering. I really should go and have some breakfast.

Posted by steve at 07:37 AM

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Tuesday was one of my best teaching days ever. I define best because I got an intuitive sense, based on the class engagement and questions, that lots of learning was happening about mission in Western culture. And since discipleship is about learning, and mission in Western culture is my passion, when things go well, I like to ask why. What processes help people learn?

1. It was our second week together. So relationships had been built and that sense of trust is essential.
2. The students came to the class having completed a 3,000 word case study. So they had an existing body of knowledge. More importantly I think, this knowledge was grounded knowledge. They had been asked to study an existing emerging church and it’s worshipping life. So these students have been thinking life and reality and not abstract theories.
3. A regular part of class had been dwelling in the Word, in Luke 10:1-12. As a class, we have read and re-read this text and in doing so, have been deeply challenged by Scripture.
4. Since our first week of class was in April, to allow integration and reinforcement, I started the class by asking the students to work on 4 questions that might help integrate lecture material with the case study work.
What were some of the practices shaping this emerging church?
What were the sources generating imagination at this emerging church?
What gospel/culture questions arose for you as you read about this emerging church?
What struck you as you “read theology” from a living community in contrast to reading theology from a book?

5. As the students gave feedback, I went into “devils advocate” mode. I forced them to consider Luke 10 and the case study. I pushed them to consider what this meant for their real and living communities of faith.

In so doing, in the conversation between Biblical text and case study, a whole lot of learning was triggered about worship and discipleship and conversion today. (Rather than providing answers to these questions, I have spent the last few days providing resources for the students to continue their journey: opening Biblical text, reading other mission case studies, bringing in dialogue partners to keep teasing out questions.)

So how did learning happen? Out of relationships, around case studies, in conversation with Scripture, aided by good questions. I checked this with the class before I posted it here and they nodded their heads.

Now can I take this to our teaching and discipling in churches? How like Sunday, how much of our discipling material, has this pattern: of relationships, case studies, Scripture and good questions?

Posted by steve at 04:48 PM

bounce back sp*m

I’m currently being killed by bounce back sp*m: the kind where someone has copied my email address into their spam and so when it hits a dead email address, bounces back to me as a delivery failure. I got over 600 of these while I was out for a 3 hour dinner date last nite. I am told by my ISP provider that there is nothing they can do. I am seriously considering changing my email address. Any other options out there?

Posted by steve at 03:32 PM

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Can you talk in nice voices please?

How many of us have said this to our kids? If we ask it of our kids, can we ask it of each other as we talk about the emerging church?

I am in Auckland teaching a masters course on the emerging church. Titled Critical missional issues it uses the emerging church as a case study to reflect on mission in Western Culture. I taught the first week in April. It is my argument that there is no such thing as the emerging church, only emerging churches and an emerging conversation. So to study the emerging church, you have to put aside McLaren and actually study the practices of living communities – what they are doing.

So we spent our first week in April exploring how to read a living theology, the Word enfleshed in a body of Christ. And the students went away to put this into practice, to study the worship and ethos of an emerging church.

This second week we are due to spend discerning the missional lessons that can be learnt from the emerging church. What might the emerging church learn from Scripture, from how Jesus treated those outside the church (the wise men, the Samaritan woman, Canaanite woman), or how the early church engaged with culture (the Ethiopian Enuch, the preaching of Paul in Lystra and Derbe)? What might the emerging church learn from reading mission history.

And we also as a class need to listen to contemporary critical voices. But how could we go about talking in nice voices please. How could we listen fairly to a critic like Don Carson?

And so a few weeks ago I was given a gift. A Christchurch pastor came to me. He has a PhD in Biblical studies, is a pastor, has been reading Carson,whom he respects. And now he has some questions about the emerging church. And could we talk. Can you see why this is a gift! Not hissing over the internet, but face to face. Nice voices.

And I asked him if we could video the conversation. Could I show it in my Masters class this week? It would be so easy for me in my small classroom to conduct a monologue, to summarise a critic like Carson and then trash a critic like Carson.

But a conversation. That would be different. Allowing diverse voices into the classroom. Face to face. And allowing the critic, in this case Carson, to have the right of reply and even the last word. 55 minutes later we have a video, and what I hope will be a great gift to the class.

But whatever the case, I am trying to learn to talk in nice voices. Anyone out there want to join me? What could happen if we all try to use nice voices (as we talk to each other about faith and ministry today)?

Update: This post wasn’t a video distribution plug, but a reflection on how I am processing what it means for me to engage in constructive talking, how we might build bridges and treat those who have different ideas that we do. I’m trying a more conversational approach. What are you trying?

Posted by steve at 04:41 PM